How Online Arguments with Strangers Affect Your Happiness
Online arguments can be so tempting at times. I admit it: I hadn’t slept, couldn’t stop crying over the US’s most recent traumatic event, and had a short fuse, so I went online. I made some legitimately informative remarks on a stranger’s comment but added sarcasm. I stirred things up. And I regret it, because not only was my point lost, I’m now left obsessing over that conversation, while I’m sure nobody else is. Online arguments can often be damaging to our enjoyment of life.
Online Arguments Don't Work Out
Online arguments drag you in. I know; it’s hard. It’s hard when someone insults a cause you’re passionate about, says something inflammatory, or appears so uninformed that you’re shocked to see such ignorance. You want to show the other side of the argument, the truth. You’ll help that person and everyone else involved see a new perspective or learn something. Or maybe you’re just angry and you want to publicize how stupid that person is.
It’s not going to work.
I’m not saying anything you don’t already know. Also, if you have a mental illness like anxiety or depression, you may also be highly sensitive and therefore susceptible to stronger reactions to social injustice.1 You may also be feeling self-conscious or dejected due to your condition and being gloriously, publicly right seems like a great way to feel better.
It’s not going to work.
What to Do Instead of Having an Argument Online
It happens all the time. You’ll run into something that is absolutely incorrect and perhaps even abusive and it simply invites you into an online argument.
First, leave. Cool off. Do a strenuous workout, like running or yoga, to detach yourself for a time. This is important: Do not take any of your electronic devices with you. Do not check them as soon as you return. Leave them be.
Now, think. Is what you’re doing making you happier and more fulfilled or are you just seeking vindication at this point? Vindication won’t bring you joy. You’ll still be mad even if you win the argument and make someone else look stupid because frankly, that’s not who you are.
But What If I Can Contribute to the Discussion?
Perhaps you have a unique counterpoint or some research the original poster/commenter hasn’t seen, and you want to share it by opening up a dialogue. That’s commendable, and I’m not suggesting you drop all logical conversation in order to be happy. Some true joy resides in a civil and complicated discussion where everyone walks away smiling and a little more knowledgeable about the world.
If you have something you’d like to share, simply post asking if you can private message her to continue the conversation.
Avoid Online Arguments by Being Curious, Not Defensive
If the person declines, she may not be open to discussion so your public efforts would have been wasted in that online argument. If she accepts, enter that discussion with curiosity. Assume that you will learn something you’d never considered before. While you might already feel her opinions are unfounded, try considering that she’s an adult who has built these opinions after careful consideration of the information at her disposal, just as you have. Give her some credit and ask genuine questions about her belief system and her position. You may be surprised how much you learn yourself.
- Liss, M., Timmel, L., Baxley, K., & Killingsworth, P. (2005, December). Sensory processing sensitivity and its relation to parental bonding, anxiety, and depression. Retrieved April 02, 2018, from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2005.05.007
Meredith, M. (2018, April 1). How Online Arguments with Strangers Affect Your Happiness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingablissfullife/2018/04/be-happier-stop-arguing-with-people-on-the-internet